The Myth of Teamwork?

February 28, 2011

I just read Skip Weisman’s blog about the “Myth of Teamwork” and was impressed.  Not because I think teamwork is a myth, but because it’s high time someone took a look at why teamwork isn’t successful many times.

It is because individual team members fail.

However, I think that Skip misses the fact that teamwork is more than just the actions associated with working as part of a team.  It is a culture, a mindset, a way of working and winning together, not just as individuals.

But it does start with individuals.

The Problem of Teamwork in Certain Cultures

A teamwork mindset requires confidence in others.  Continual failure by fellow team members creates  a disincentive to rely on someone else, the very foundation of teamwork.

Therefore, for it to be effective, members of the team must do their work effectively and earn the trust of their peers.  Otherwise, people resort to depending on themselves primarily (“it’s faster if I do it myself” mentality), a fatal blow not just to the concept of teamwork, but delegation and collaboration as well.

Organizations that hire great people and teach those great people to understand and trust each other, incubate more than just a teamwork culture.

They incubate success.

On the flip side, teamwork is a joke in organizations that hire sloppy people and then allow poor performance to continue, while at the same time preaching that people need to work together.  The second part of teamwork is “work”, and it needs to be done well for teamwork to succeed.  Otherwise, they’d be better off letting their few “All Stars” do the process or project themselves, rather than introducing broken cogs into the system.

I can’t count how many times leaders in organizations I’ve assisted have lost focus on cleaning up poor individual work performances, and have instead brought in consultants to help do fruitless team building exercises.

Without individual success, teamwork is indeed a waste of time.

One Idea for Team Building

We have to listen to our staff and actively seek their feedback.  If your team is dysfunctional, it’s time to ask your team why.  When dealing with team problems, I always start by interviewing everyone involved and asking what the problem is.

Nine times out of ten, they have the answer already figured out.  They almost always know if they should trust their teammates to finish their part correctly, and encouraging them to “work together” is frustrating and pointless.

For true team building, leaders must hold their individual team members to a high standard first (build trust in performance), then help them see the excellence they each bring to a project (understanding).  Only at that point will the handoffs  be smooth, the communication open, and synergies will begin to appear.

Have an excellent night,

Aaron Biebert

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Don’t Use Vinegar

December 19, 2010

It sounds like a simple idea to be considerate when asking someone to go above and beyond (pick up extra shifts or take on an extra project).  However, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard or seen people in the world try to “attract bees” with vinegar instead of honey. 

Are you seeing stuff like this too?  (not just in movies)

Um, yeah, we’re going to need you to come in and work tomorrow.”

or how about what I call the “Leave 17 Voicemails” approach?

It just doesn’t work.  Kindness is key.

  • Ask, don’t tell.
  • Say please and thank you.
  • Show that you care.
  • Explain why you need it.
  • No means no.  If they say no, move on.  (They might say yes in the future if you don’t ruin the relationship)
  • Be pleasant.

Also, it’s important to surround yourself with caring, respectful people so that you can be caring, respectful back.  It makes for a nice situation.

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About the Author:  Aaron lives in Milwaukee, WI and is the President of Clear Medical Solutions.  When he’s not leading new initiatives, he periodically takes on interim leadership or consulting projects.  He also enjoys teaching, speaking, writing, and sharing his passion for people and their healthcare. 


Warning! Are You Cutting too Deep?

December 13, 2010

With more signs of the economy improving, now might be a good time to remember the value of our highly skilled employees.  This thought came to me when I just heard about a hospital mandating overtime for their nurses when it costs them $51/hr and they have the option of agency nurses to cover at $42/hr.  That’s a double waste; both money and spirit.

Also, let’s not forget the hospital has to pay overtime to the schedulers and managers that will scramble to coordinate and deal with the aftermath.

That doesn’t make sense to me. 

For me, it’s not just about the money (even though that’s a big one these days).  It’s about patient safety.  It’s about the long term burnout that’s happening.  It’s about reputation and retention once the economy improves.

It’s about not upsetting a highly skilled workforce right before the largest shortage of nurses and doctors in a generation.

I’m concerned about the big picture. 

The healthcare industry is looking at a shortage of about 600,000 nurses and 60,000 doctors peaking in the next 4 to 7 years.  If you have to cut costs further, be careful you don’t cut too deep.  The wound might not heal in time.

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About the Author:  Aaron lives in Milwaukee, WI and is the President of Clear Medical Solutions.  When he’s not leading new initiatives, he periodically takes on interim leadership or consulting projects.  He also enjoys teaching, speaking, writing, and sharing his passion for people and their healthcare. 


The Hierarchy of Teamwork

December 2, 2010

Over the years I’ve had the honor of helping organizations make big changes in the way they do things during challenging times.  Turnaround projects are not for everyone, but I really love the challenge and the difference it can make.  I affectionately call them my “Extreme Makeover:  Healthcare Edition” projects.

For a speech I gave at the Midwestern Practice Management Symposium this fall, I had a reason to organize my thoughts on a simple plan to develop teamwork and change not only practices, but hearts as well.  Somehow this hierarchy developed into a simple acronym:  TRUCK

Here were my thoughts…

1) Kindness – It’s the beginning of any good relationship.  In a cold world, authentic kindness stands out and opens doors.  Even in a big organization, stories are shared.  “They don’t care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.”

2) Connection – Once they “care how much you know”, you can begin using your interactions (even electronic ones) to build a relationship.  Kind, meaningful interactions are the bond that creates a connection.  This may actually mean that you try to meet every person in your organization or division.  It’s not easy (believe me), but if you want to lead, you must connect.  I think this is actually the most important and sometimes most difficult step.  It makes or breaks leaders and teams.

3) Understanding – Once you build a connection and communication channels are open,  an understanding of one’s motives and qualities grows.  This is where it gets to be a challenge for some.  The more they understand you, the more they have to find what they need in order for you to be successful.  This is why the right people need to be in the right place.  You don’t have to be perfect or act like you’re in a popularity contest, but your motives and values must be absolutely unshakeable and consistent.

4) Respect – If they understand your strengths and proper motivation, respect will develop at some level. 

5) Trust – Finally, trust comes when they respect you and believe that you’ll use your skills and abilities to support them in their work.  It is the difference between knowing someone can catch you and believing they actually will.

Once you have their trust, you can make big changes:  change hearts, change minds, change cultures.  You can move mountains. 

TRUCK may be just another silly acronym, but hopefully this concept of a hierarchy can help guide the process for building teamwork or how a Servant Leader can grow a strong organization and deliver results. 

Let me know what you think.  It’s a work in progress.

 

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About the Author:  Aaron lives in Milwaukee, WI with his wife and two children and is the President & CEO of Clear Medical Solutions.  When he’s not leading new initiatives, he periodically takes on interim leadership or consulting projects.  He also enjoys teaching, speaking, writing, and sharing his passion for people and their healthcare. 


Linkedin for Healthcare 101

November 14, 2010

Linkedin does such a great job of keeping you in contact with your professional network that I personally believe it will replace your Rolodex or address book.  It’s inevitable. 

It updates itself, allows you to ask questions of your entire professional network in one shot, and keeps you in touch with your offline groups and associations.  With a new member every second, it won’t be long before nearly every one of your colleagues is on it.

The first step is to register on Linkedin.com and go through the setup process.  For help on getting started, make sure you follow each step and check out this guide for new Linkedin users.

In the Information Age, people can Google your name and find out if anyone’s complained about you online, anytime you’ve been in the local paper, or just about anything else that people write about you.  When using Linkedin, you will be able manage the information that’s publically available about you and create a search result that is positive, professional, and near the top of the search results.  This is especially important for leaders, physicians, and others who depend on their reputation for their livelihood.

You can also gain new information and insights from other professionals in private group settings.  This can come in handy if you have a simple problem/question, but don’t want to pay a consultant for the answer.  Your peer network can and will help.  I use several groups to get peer support all of the time, and I swear by it.  Guide to asking questions on Linkedin

In the coming years our industry will face severe shortages for just about every type of work.  One benefit to Linkedin will be the ability to post job openings or do networking in order to find the right candidates for openings in your department. 

Just like facebook, some great communities have formed on Linkedin to provide peer support and helpful Q&A.  Here are some of my personal favorites:

I would recommend using the search box on the top right of the Linkedin screen to find other associations that you are a member of offline.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them as comments below.  I’ll help you out!

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About the Author:  Aaron lives in Milwaukee, WI with his wife and two children and is the President & CEO of Clear Medical Solutions.  When he’s not leading new initiatives, he periodically takes on interim leadership or consulting projects.  He also enjoys teaching, speaking, writing, and sharing his passion for people and their healthcare. 


Facebook for Healthcare 101

November 11, 2010

For the sake of keeping this short enough, I’m going to assume that you’ve registered on facebook.com and have gone through their quick setup process.  For help getting started, follow facebook’s recommended setup steps and check out this 8 minute guide for new facebook users.

Congratulations, you are now part of the largest social network in the world!

Here’s some basic info about the human network you’ve just joined:

  • Earlier this year, it was named #1 most visited website in the US (more than Google)
  • Every month 30,000,000,000 pieces of information (links, pictures, videos, etc.) are shared by its 500+ million users
  • People spend 700,000,000,000 minutes per month on facebook

That’s a lot of zeros! 

During the sign-up process, you should have gone through facebook’s step by step guide to setup your profile and find your friends.  Don’t worry if you don’t have many friends on facebook right away.  Believe me, they will come.  (An 80+ year-old relative of mine signed up a couple months ago and has at least 20 friends now on facebook) 

Now let’s bring the professional side into it.  I truly believe that facebook has the potential be a major force in supporting healthcare professionals to reduce burnout, share best practices, and get quick answers to issues.  Using facebook as a tool, communities have formed to provide peer support and helpful Q&A.

Here are some of my personal favorite facebook communities:

Specifically, notice how the first two groups have a lot of people answering the questions of their group members on their “Wall” tab.  I would recommend using the search box on the top of the facebook screen to find other associations that you are a member of offline. 

Next step?  Jump in!  Comment.  Post questions.  Help others.  These communities are built on us, and they are at their best when you and I are sharing.

Have questions about facebook?  Post questions you might have in the comment box below and I’ll see if I can help.

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About the Author:  Aaron lives in Milwaukee, WI with his wife and two children and is the President & CEO of Clear Medical Solutions.  When he’s not leading new initiatives, he periodically takes on interim leadership or consulting projects.  He also enjoys teaching, speaking, writing, and sharing his passion for people and their healthcare. 


Part 3: How to Start Using Social Media

November 10, 2010

In my last couple posts, I hope I’ve done a decent job of convincing you that Social Media might be worth a try.  Now the question is “How?”

The first step is to join some of the free Social Networking sites available.  I’ll talk more in-depth about each one in following posts, but first we need to pick a couple to start with, visit their home page, and register. 

Which ones to join?

There are literally thousands of different social networks to choose from, but for starters, I recommend starting with these two:

facebook.com – Their stated goal is to recreate the human network, and they’ve done so quite successfully.  With active groups, helpful pages, and a system that allows you to focus on people you know, this social network of over 550,000,000 people is the gateway to the world of Social Media.  It’s not just for college kids anymore (you might be surprised how many of your friends are on it).

Linkedin.com – This network of more than 80,000,000 is primarily for leaders and professionals.  With excellent groups and many of your colleagues already on there, it’s a great place to share professional information and stay informed.  Every Fortune 500 company has members on it, and it’s a must for anyone looking to lead others during this digital age.

(Extra Credit)  

twitter.com – If you’ve already joined facebook and Linkedin and find yourself looking to try more, I recommend twitter.  Twitter is simple.  Twitter is easy.  160,000,000 people are using twitter to share bite sized (140 characters or less) messages with the world.  You can follow the “tweets” of industry leaders, colleagues, consultants, and friends as they share news, links, videos, and blog postings.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them as comments here on the blog site and my colleagues and I will attempt to answer them as best as we can.

What’s next? 

I’ll dive into the professional side of facebook.com and discuss how you can make it work for your work in the healthcare industry.  The following day, we’ll focus Linkedin.com.  If you’d like to get these sent to you via email, just subscribe on the upper right side of ClearMatters.com.

See you tomorrow!

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About the Author:  Aaron lives in Milwaukee, WI with his wife and two children and is the President & CEO of Clear Medical Solutions.  When he’s not leading new initiatives, he periodically takes on interim leadership or consulting projects.  He also enjoys teaching, speaking, writing, and sharing his passion for people and their healthcare. 


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